Rajbiraj Airport test flight groundedThe test flight to evaluate the operational capacity of the upgraded Rajbiraj Airport in southeastern Nepal has been put off due to procedural delays.
Abdesh Kumar Jha
The test flight to evaluate the operational capacity of the upgraded Rajbiraj Airport in southeastern Nepal has been put off due to procedural delays. The airport, whose upgradation was marred with delays and controversies in previous years, was scheduled to witness its first test flight on May 3.
Buddha Air’s plane was expected to touch down on the runway as part of the airport’s trial. However, the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (Caan) has not given approval for the test landing even though two weeks have passed, said Ram Ekwal Mahato, chief of the airport project. “We are all ready to throw open the airport after the necessary test if Caan approves the flight test.” He said that the another flight test was planned with Shree Airlines Bombardier CRJ aircraft on Wednesday with the paperwork filed, but this plan also failed due to the delay in getting Caan’s approval for a test flight.
“Wednesday’s plan could be halted due to Makalu Air’s crash in Humla on Wednesday morning that made took up Caan officials’ time.”
The airport lies 3km south of Bishnupur Rural Municipality from the district headquarters. The 1,500-metre-long and 30-metre-wide runway has been built with asphalt surface. Likewise, the 90-metre-long and 60-metre-wide apron and 110-metre-long and 20-metre-wide taxiway has been blacktopped. The construction had started in 1959 and was inaugurated by then Transport Minister Ganesh Man Singh. The airport was subsequently closed down after a few days. Due to the lack of necessary infrastructure and dirt runway, the airport had been transformed into animal grazing land. Locals and political leaders had been pressurising the government to upgrade the airport.
Finally, the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (Caan) in 2015-16 allocated budget for the airport’s upgradation.
The airport upgradation project was awarded to a joint venture company in October 16, 2016 with the completion deadline of November 2017. As the company failed to complete the project by the stipulated time, the project was given an extra five months to finish. The total cost for the project was Rs303 million.